Causes are diverse
The county also took a step downward in terms of social and economic factors, sinking to 86 out of the 92 counties. In part, this reflects the rising level of child poverty in Madison County, also highlighted by the recently released Kids Count report developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The percentage of children 18 and under in Madison County living in poverty has shown a steady increase over the last three years to the current figure of 29 percent. Statewide, that figure is 23 percent. The national benchmark figure falls at only 14 percent.
On the bright side, the county fared a little better when it comes to availability of clinical care, placing 27 out of the 92 counties, despite the 17 percent of the county population which is uninsured.
“We have good doctors. We have ways to keep people well,” said Ford. He noted that the county boasts three hospitals, and programs exist to help the uninsured.
Not surprisingly, the bottom line for the combination of health factors is a downward trend in outcomes. Madison County has slipped five spots, coming in at 80 out of the 92 counties. This reflects people who aren’t living as long as they otherwise might, and people who are living with poor physical or mental health, as well as low birthweight babies.
The causes of the problems as well as the solutions are diverse and complicated, and they have not been ignored. Ford said a coalition called the Transformation Committee was established last year to look at the problems. It includes the county health department as well as Madison County Community Health Center, Community Hospital Anderson, St. Vincent Anderson, the Madison County Council of Governments, Intersect Inc., and state Sen. Tim Lanane. Madison Health Partners is a similar group that also embraces the business community in the problem solving process.